Friday, July 18, 2014

4 Years of Battle - Lucas Lepri vs JT Torres from 2010 Brasileiros to 2014 Mundials

I wasn't aware these two had fought this many times until I started watching more of Lucas Lepri and his passing game in the past few weeks. What followed was an interesting sojourn through time looking at how JT's guard game against Lepri has changed and how Lepri's passing game adjusted to JT's game as well. In short, Lepri's passing has improved, and honestly, JT's guard game has seemingly become less effective at least when facing Lucas Lepri.

Lucas Lepri vs JT Torres - 2010 Brasileiros: JT wins by lapel choke from the back

Much of what you'll come to see in JT's early passing game in this post appears here: Cross grip from bottom, De La Riva hook, foot on hip. He does a lot with these tools to break down Lepri's posture and frustrate his passing game and even hit a sweep at about the 4:15 mark. Lepri's subsequent sweep to get back on top occurs off screen at the 6:30 mark (the world will never know what happened?!) and JT sweeps back on top off screen yet again at the 7:30 mark and eventually finished Lepri from the back.

Lucas Lepri vs JT Torres - 2011 - Abu Dhabi Pro Trials - Lepri by points

You'll notice JT gets to x-guard and nearly sweeps.
But more importantly, JT frustrates Lepri with the collar grip that I've heard guys like Augusto "Tanquinho" Mendes talk about as being a complete game changer for them. This collar grip must be dealt with immediately. I remember reading an interview after Tanquinho beat Cobrinha at the Worlds and the thing he mentioned repeatedly was addressing that cross collar grip because of how powerful it is for the bottom guy. The cross collar grip and the deep De La Riva hook repeatedly compromise Lepri's ability to impose his passing game and suck him down into some dangerous positions or if nothing else, stifle the room he needs to work and impose pressure to pass or make space to Torreando/hop around the legs as Lepri often does (down the road when he uses a bit more leg dragging/Torreando style passing in more recent matches as we'll see later in this post).
By the 5 minute mark, Lepri has begun to address/kill the De La Riva hook but is still contending with the leg lasso/ish spider guard hook on his left arm.

JT makes the critical mistake in a semi-stacked position and leaves his right leg upright/dead for a split second too long and Lepri leg drags it across to the back take.

JT Torres vs Lucas Lepri - 2011 Europeans - Lepri by points
Early on JTJT utilizes foot on the hip, a deep De La Riva hook, leg lasso, and at times that strong, powerful cross grip to break down and keep Lepri in a crouching position, but not so much an offensive passing position. It's not until 5:50 that Lepri gets a good passing opportunity when he underhooks a lazy DLR hook and looks to semi-stack pass. JT sweeps after he inverts at about the 9:50 mark and comes up on top.

Now, through the magic of the internets, we hop into our time machine and fast forward 3 years. Much has changed in the sense that JT is now with Atos (after the scandal at that team whose name we will not say on this blog), and Lepri's passing has definitely improved.

Lucas Lepri vs JT Torres 2014 - Mundials/Worlds - Lepri by points
Lepri hits a nice kouchigari to ankle pick near the 6 minute mark and the passing/guard battle begins.
Early on, JT is using a knee shield/foot on hip style guard to keep Lepri at bay. Lepri keeps the pressure relentless alternating between hand or forearm on JT's hi, controlling it as his knee fights through the middle. At about 9:30, JT briefly gets to deep half and for a moment Lepri looks to be in trouble, but he bails and makes his way back to knee through position and JT in a very low, on his side half-guard. The fatal mistake comes shortly thereafter when Lepri gets the crossface and the knee through inevitably follows. JT at brief moments used a spider hook or a leg lasso, but never seemed to have a more offensive open guard the way he did in the match from 3 years prior. Was Lepri's game just that much better? Has JT's time at Atos got him working on a different bottom half-guard style game? Lepri's passing game here seems pretty straight forward throughout. Knee through the middle, continually hunting for the knee through with that hand/forearm to control the hip. In matches against Oli Geddes, he will feed the collar to attack with the choke/assist with the knee through pass/crossface, but JT does a good job of maintaining that distance for nearly the entire match, but once he gives up the crossface, the pass seemingly becomes inevitable. However, JT's different guard game also afforded him far less opportunities to sweep, sit up to guard, set hooks or virtually anything else to stymie Lepri's game.


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